The aim of this research was to study the effects of chemical spills on activated sludge metabolic activity and settleability. On-site, laboratory-scale tests were carried out at three pulp and paper mill activated sludge plants. Oxygen uptake rate (OUR) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) removal were used for monitoring of metabolic inhibition. The effects of chemicals on 30-min settled sludge volume were studied. Accidental release reports from five pulp and paper mills were analysed.
Thirty-four chemicals were selected to the laboratory tests. Of the tested chemicals 2 biocides, monochloro acetic acid, soft soap and turpentine inhibited the OUR of the sludge and thus, had an acute toxic effect on the activated sludge. The biocides and disperging agent reduced DOC removal. Aluminium sulphate and optical brightener had a negative effect on sludge settleability and thus, they may cause losses of activated sludge from treatment plant. In conclusion, maximum possible spill of the five chemicals may reduce the performance of the activated sludge.